Chandigarh: Out of sight, out of mind is an old saying. But when this adage comes true for the leaders of Punjab who contributed positively towards the social causes and are not being remembered, a sense of injustice looms large.
In this piece, a humble attempt is being made to name a few whose colossal contribution today stands ignored or forgotten.
Perhaps none remembers the contribution of late Colonel Raghbir Singh, who was Chief Minister of PEPSU and got rid of dacoits in the state. In the days of yore, Raghbir Singh formed a special force of valiant policemen who were tasked to track down to arrest or to kill the dacoits, recollects Ujjagar Singh, a retired public relations officer of Punjab.
Ujjagar Singh also narrates the tale of Punjab’s lion late Partap Singh Kairon, Chief Minister who in 1962 after the debacle of India at the hands of China, invited a demoralised Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Punjab and started a drive to collect gold for the Indian Army to equip it with modern weapons.
Another story about Kairon is narrated by the elders. It goes like this; coming back to Punjab from Delhi the Chief Minister’s cavalcade came to a grinding halt in the middle of the night as a cat got killed under the wheels of his official Ambassador car. He alighted and called near all those accompanying him. Kairon asked everybody present to explain, “Why the cat got killed?” All started giving their reasons but Kairon concluded that the cat died as she could not decide to run forward or retreat in front of the beam of light of the car. “It was the indecisiveness which took the toll,” he said. And never did Kairon exhibited indecisiveness in his administration.
Coming to Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, it is said that the dead honest morcha dictator of the Akalis during militancy, was in a quandary whether to accept Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s invitation for an accord? As the indecisiveness continued he got up with alacrity and moved towards Guru Granth Sahib. He left the decision on the ‘Hukamnama’ and once he started reading, the Guru told him to proceed in spite of the opposition and bring around peace in the state. Sant Longowal proceeded to Delhi in the morning and signed the historic Rajiv-Longowal accord.
Justice Gurnam Singh is another diamond in the crown of Punjab. Dead honest, Justice Gurnam Singh had a peculiar habit of not listening to any advice. He was hardcore autocrat. He is counted among the pioneers of Punjab in the company of Gurmukh Singh Musafir, Lachhman Singh Gill, Kharak Singh, Sant Fateh Singh, Tara Singh, Comrade Ram Kishen and Nachhatar Singh Gill.
Late Jasdev Singh Sandhu, in the recent history, turns out to be a humble minister in the Akali government. It is recollected by old timers that the minister was once approached by a commoner who visited his house riding a cycle. On listening to the problem, jathedar in his pyjamas jumped on the carrier of the cycle and went ahead to solve the problem of the commoner. He never cared if he was moving with security or without it.
Late Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra is not forgotten but, he is relegated to the back pages of the memory when the Akali leadership remembers him once a year by organising his death anniversary in Tohra village. He remained president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for 28 years. He is known to have been the fulcrum of Panthic politics. Considered left of the center, Tohra kept a constant check on Parkash Singh Badal and was not afraid of striking a discordant note with Badal in politics. Some radical groups took guidance from him, it is said.
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